I am in a mid-life career crisis here so I was hoping to receive some guidance from fellow Bliind'ers who know better.
My current official job title is Product Manager and it has been so for the past 3 years with the company. However I have rarely got to do any real work related to Prod Mgmt. My actual job responsibilities have been intermittently switching between that of a Business/Data Analyst/Business Intelligence Engineer which means my team has been dependent on me mostly for my skillset on SQL and reporting tools with some adhoc program management.
Now I am at a point where I do not want to continue doing so and instead focus on my long term career growth which I believe my current role does not offer. Based on my experience with the respective teams, I feel Prod Mgr and Data Scientist are two different roles that offer a lot of challenge and responsibility for individual growth, and in the long term will help me develop into a Director/VP role. Although both roles require completely different skillset and parameters to be successful, I am trying to gauge each of them and hoping if I could find a middle ground where I can do a mix of both.
I did my Masters in MIS so I have sufficient educational background and experience to pursue either stream. I am interested in Prod Mgmt because I like the idea of owning and defining a product, preparing the roadmap and shaping it to completion by partnering with the Tech teams. I like the satisfaction of a being an independent 'owner' and the responsibility associated with it. However, my only fear is the amount of 'creativity' and 'document writing' that is desired in such roles. I constantly come across interviews from FB, Google where Prod Mgrs are expected to come up with their own suggestions for a product and define the end to end design. I am not sure where I can develop such expertise and remain successful when competing with MBA holders who are better at such stuff including writing top quality documents! Also, I am on a H-1B visa, so with the flurry of specialty occupation RFE exceptions raised recently, I am not sure if I should take the risk of sticking to a purely prod mgmt role when I cannot demonstrate any technical skills.
When it comes to Data science, I feel slightly more confident about my skillset because of my current work experience and prior work experience as a developer in Python. However, I realize there is a steep learning curve to this as well as recently I have noticed that HM's expect the candidates to know more about ML algorithms and statistics in addition to basic coding skills. Although I feel its relatively easy to learn these skills (compared to 'creative thinking' and 'doc writing'), my concern is if these skills will get outdated too soon! Also I feel that Data Science is a vast and an endless domain. With the evolution of Deep learning & Reinforcement learning, I feel that an individual can learn & practice for years and still not be a Master of data science, or would be lacking in one or the other skills. For example, if one team expects a Data Scientist to know Machine learning, the same cannot be true for a different team who may expect the candidate to know more about Deep learning/statistical analysis. Also, I feel the current demand for Machine & Deep Learning skills is just a phase and the tools (Python language, SQL, scikit-learn) will get outdated soon enough and in the end we will need to re-learn in a new set of tools/skills over the next decade. Additionally, I am not aware what does a 10/15 year roadmap looks like for a Data Scientist. Do they eventually grow to a Principal Data Scientist role? I haven't come across any person who is a VP of Data science.
I realize that the views I have shared above could be entirely misguided and inaccurate but I will be glad to hear everybody's thoughts on this so that I can get a better picture. Thanks!
That being said, if your long term career path is to get to a senior General Management position, which most Amazon VPs are, you need to gradually move towards a role that gives you a higher degree of responsibility in terms of owning business goals, which the PM track is more likely to offer.